Written By: B.S. Cronin
Googins vocals hit an appealingly low register and somehow manage to be both scratchy and smooth, reminiscent of recent indie darling Cut Worms.
Austin-born and raised Josh Googins’s first solo album takes you on a journey through genres. He begins with two tracks that are pure rockabilly Americana before busting out the steel guitar (courtesy of Mike and the Moonpies) and going country with “West Texas Charm”. The album’s high point, it wouldn’t sound out of place on a Waylon Jennings record.
The middle of the album slows down for some bluesy love songs. Hypnotic riffs adorn songs like “Nothin on my Mind” and “Heartbreak Hangover”. Bassists borrowed from Band of Heathens and Amplified Heat are welcome guests; their emotive lines provide a playful undercurrent for Googins’s solos. Emily Gimble sparkles on the piano, particularly on the title track, “Reason to Pretend.”
Everything but the bass gets unplugged for “Rainy Ol’ Sunday”. The prominent piano and spirited tone recall Randy Newman: “It’s a gosh darn shame/ that on my free time/ it’s raining all day”. Googins vocals hit an appealingly low register and somehow manage to be both scratchy and smooth, reminiscent of recent indie darling Cut Worms. He distorts his voice for the album’s final track “When I Die”, adding grit and classic rock credibility to a track that’s straight rock and roll.
Googins’s ability to move fluidly through genres is a testament to his talent and his Texas roots. The musical team he’s assembled for Reason to Pretend is exactly the kind of band I would want to find on stage at a West Texas bar. It’s an impressive debut; catch him on tour!